Five AgBioResearch Scientists Honored at Awards Convocation

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Though the focus of their work ranges from cellulosic biofuels to wildlife response to ecological restoration, the five AgBioResearchers honored at the 2008 Academic Awards Convocation have one thing in common: excellence.

Bruce Dale, MAES chemical engineering and materials science researcher; Dean DellaPenna, MAES biochemistry and molecular biology researcher; and Jim Hancock, MAES horticulture researcher, received Distinguished Faculty Awards. Kami Silk, MAES communication researcher, received a Teacher-Scholar Award. MAES fisheries and wildlife scientist Kelly Millenbah received a Quality Teaching Award.

Distinguished Faculty Awards are presented in recognition of a comprehensive and sustained record of scholarly excellence in research and/or creative activities, instruction and outreach. Teacher-Scholar Awards are presented to faculty members who early in their careers have earned the respect of students and colleagues for their devotion to and skill in teaching and who have shown scholarly promise. The Alumni Club of Mid-Michigan Quality in Undergraduate Teaching Awards honor outstanding undergraduate teaching.

Bruce DaleBruce Dale is recognized as a world leader in the application of biotechnology principles to produce fuels, chemicals and other products from renewable plant resources. Because the current use of corn kernels for ethanol production is neither efficient nor sustainable, Dale’s research is timely and important to the goals of the nation and to the world. His national and international reputation stems from his pioneering research on the ammonia freeze-explosion process. A major ethanol producer is commercializing his breakthrough ammonia pretreatment technology.

Dale co-chaired a National Research Council panel and has testified before Congress on the findings. He advises President George W. Bush and Gov. Jennifer Granholm on the practical use of biofuels.

Dale is devoted to teaching and research aimed at developing sustainable energy for modern society.

Dean DellaPennaDean DellaPenna is regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on the biosynthesis of nutritionally important micronutrients in plants. His pioneering research on vitamin A and essential fatty acid biosynthesis in plants employs the tools of biochemistry, genetics and genomics in creative ways to uncover the enzymes that plants use to make these key molecules. His research also reveals the complex ways in which these vitamins contribute to the growth and stress tolerance of plants.

DellaPenna has been instrumental in pushing the international community to take on the challenge of using genomics and biochemistry to tackle the biofortification of foods important to people in developing countries. This led to collaborative projects funded by international agencies and the Gates Foundation to improve the nutritional quality of rice, cassava and other foods for undernourished people in Africa and other countries.

James HancockJames Hancock is a global authority on the evolution and ecology of strawberries and blueberries and is the author of a highly respected textbook for crop evolution. His work on blueberry chromosomal and genomic divergence has contributed significantly to the understanding of the adaptive and dynamic nature of autopolyploids. He also is a gifted plant breeder who has developed some of the highest quality and most quickly adopted blueberry cultivars worldwide.

Hancock’s publications in gene flow and crop evolution have led to invitations to participate in activities related to biotechnology biosafety issues by the Pew Initiative and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He is engaged in biosafety training internationally.

He served as director of the graduate program in plant breeding and genetics and has taken a leading role inbringing national and international attention to the need for plant breeding in the 21st century.

Kami SilkKami Silk conducts research in health, risk and organizational communication.

Her research focuses on how to influence individuals to engage in healthy behavior and prevention practices. She currently is working in the area of breast cancer prevention, with a focus on early prevention among adolescent females.

Kelly MillenbahKelly Millenbah’s research focuses on restoration ecology—the conservation and management of disturbed and damaged ecosystems with implications for threatened and endangered species.

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